In what seems like a lifetime ago, I attended an intervarsity debating competition where I watched a final on the motion “This house would ban Valentine’s Day”. It was on Valentine’s Day. I was single. Everybody in room knew they were really cool.
I remember little to nothing of the debate but it did make me think about Valentine’s Day a lot. It even became a bit of stand-up when I still did stand-up. It went something like this:
“I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s the only day dedicated to making happy people happier. There’s no International Rich and Happy day where rich people rub money in the faces of the poor. Or People Who Don’t Have Cancer day where people who don’t have cancer go to chemotherapy units to have dinner without vomiting or losing their hair.”
Now whether you find that funny, offensive or both (NB: it is not a joke a about cancer), it hopefully demonstrates my point. But I want to expand on it which is less funny but possibly more interesting. I’m going to generalise about people in three different statuses of relationship: single, traditional monogamous and non-traditional relationships.
This one’s easy. See the quote above. If you’re in a relationship, why on Earth do you feel the need the to rub this in the face of people who are single? What kind of narcissist are you? Unless you literally never mention your Valentine’s plans to anybody.
Sure, a lot of single people don’t care. But a lot do. Some will be recently divorced. Some will have had a partner who has died. Some will have just broken up. Some will be lonely. All these people are made to feel bad on Valentine’s Day. Thanks, people in a relationship!
Here, I’m talking about monogamous relationships of all sexualities and all genders. One person who is an exclusive romantic relationship with another person.
If your relationship is currently a happy one, Valentine’s Day makes no difference to you. You don’t need a special day where you get together with everybody else to celebrate how great you are because you found somebody else. Well done on attempting to make the entire world your awkward third wheel.
If however your relationship is going through a difficult time, what Valentine’s Day does is says, “if your Valentine’s Day is unsuccessful, you are in a bad relationship”. Clearly, this is ridiculous. Outside of film, TV and books, all relationships have ups and down. All Valentine’s Day does is force these couples to focus on the failings in their relationships, whether they want to or not. It may even break relationships.
Valentine’s Day perpetuates the notion the road to happiness is through monogamy. “Will you be my valentine?” implies one person, not many. And it goes further.
There is a general perception that being in a monogamous relationship is not just about happiness – it’s about virtue. That there is something fundamentally morally superior about those us in monogamous relationships than those of the us that aren’t.
First of all, this is awful for people who aren’t in monogamous relationships. Secondly, it means that single people may not look at either being single or being in polyamorous relationships are legitimate routes to happiness.
(As an aside, the “most virtuous” relationship is arguably the heterosexual, cis, monogamous relationship but sexuality and gender aren’t Valentine’s Day’s biggest issue.)
So basically, by celebrating Valentine’s Day, you’re making single people lonely, potentially destroying relationships, marginalising the polyamorous and closing off paths to happiness for everybody.
Well, at least I was considerate enough to post this after February 14th.
Happy Valentine’s Day.